Outside a Michigan courthouse where a jury found none of the four men charged with planning the kidnapping of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a defense attorney said the jury saw the alleged conspiracy: Dirty FBI tactics and ” Tough thing.”
Lawyer Michael Hills said the men who were heard on audio during the trial talking about killing Whitmer, blowing up a bridge and other violence said nothing shocking. He mentioned one of the defense witnesses he planned to consider being called to testify that he “heard worse than the pregnant mothers in the capitol.”
“If I don’t like the governor and it’s rude, I can do it in my country. That is the beauty of this country. That’s what’s great about it,” Hills said. “So hooray, freedom in America. It’s still here.”
Read more: Michigan jury deadlocks on some charges in Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy trial
But for others, Friday’s result after a week of testing was a chilling reminder that the political violence raging across America too often goes unpunished. They say that from attacks on social media and elsewhere that disproportionately affect female lawmakers, to the January 6 uprising at the US Capitol and the plan to kidnap Whitmer, people are increasingly angry and need to act. are feeling excited for, he says.
Whitmer, a Democrat, has accused former President Donald Trump of inciting anger over COVID-19 restrictions and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists. On Friday his office said people across the country were experiencing a “normalization” of violence. One Democratic state lawmaker said the threat would not be taken seriously “until someone dies.”
“The conspiracy to kidnap and murder the governor may sound like an anomaly. But we have to be honest about what it really is: the result of the violent, divisive rhetoric that is so common in our country,” Whitmer’s chief of staff, Joanne Hulse, said in a statement. “There should be accountability and consequences for those who commit heinous crimes. Without accountability, extremists will be encouraged.”
Whitmer has not commented publicly on the outcome of the case. She was not a trial witness and did not attend the trial.
The four men – Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris – were arrested in October 2020. Federal prosecutors said they wanted to kidnap Whitmer because they were outraged by the pandemic restrictions imposed by her, and saw her as a “dictator” who needed to be removed.
The allegations came at a particularly divisive time, with debate raging over the pandemic and between Trump and Joe Biden just weeks before the 2020 presidential election. Armed protests were taking place in the Michigan Capitol and elsewhere in the US, and in the streets of several cities, demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd turned violent at times.
Prosecutors presented evidence at a federal trial in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from undercover agents, an FBI informant, and two men who pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Jury members also read and listened to secretly recorded conversations, violent social media posts and chat messages.
Defense lawyers argued that the men were implicated by the FBI—pulled into an alleged conspiracy that they would never have participated in if the government and its informers entice them to do so. He portrayed men as wannabes who were often high and easily influenced, or in one case, a former member of the military who wanted to brush up on firearms training.
Before returning its verdict, the jury said that after nearly five days of deliberation they could not agree unanimously on all 10 charges against the men.
Harris, 24, and Caserta, 33, were found not guilty of conspiracy. Harris was also acquitted of charges related to explosives and guns.
The jury could not reach a verdict for Fox, 38, and Croft, 46, meaning the government could try them again.
US Attorney Andrew Birge said after the verdict that “we have two defendants awaiting trial and we will work on that.”
Hills, who defended Caserta, said the result was a message to the government that the FBI’s actions were “unconscionable.” He said the federal government should “let it go” rather than take Croft and Fox to trial for a second time.
Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Green tweeted after the verdict that “the FBI and DOJ need a full and complete cleanup. … all rot must be removed and these agencies reinstated.”
Others were stunned by the jury’s decision, saying it was a dangerous precedent.
U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, called for an end to “hatred and division in this country” and said she was “deeply concerned that today’s decision in the Whitmer kidnapping trial is causing people to choose violence and threats.” and license it.”
Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist called on elected officials, parents, teachers and others to “stand up to these despicable acts and teach our children that there is a better way.”
“Our differences should be resolved in the ballot box and not through violence,” he said. “We need to be honest and clear about what causes violence by extremists and do everything we can to address its root cause.”
Michigan State Representative Laurie Pohutsky, a Democrat, noted on Twitter that a man who threatened to kill her in 2020 had been acquitted.
“Next time you ask why we can’t run good people for office, consider today’s decision,” he said, “that it won’t be taken seriously until someone dies.”